It’s Friday morning, and Violet is in Mrs. Kresney’s office for her counseling session. Violet is still shaking after being on the belltower ledge, and she waits for Mrs. Kresney to tell her that they’re going to admit her for inpatient psychiatric treatment. But instead, they do what they always do at the start of sessions: exchange pleasantries and talk about Violet’s nightmares, which started after the accident. Violet insists she’s sleeping fine, though she still has nightmares that she’s melting away.
Violet, like Finch, is struggling with a problem (in her case, trauma surrounding the accident she experienced)—and she’s concerned about the stigma surrounding mental health issues. She doesn’t want to admit that she’s still struggling, which is why she lies to Mrs. Kresney about her nightmares.
Then, Mrs. Kresney asks about college. A year ago, Violet would’ve loved to talk about college; she and Eleanor used to talk about where they’d go to get away from the small town of Bartlett, Indiana. Mrs. Kresney lists the colleges Violet has applied to but asks why NYU (where Violet has wanted to go since seventh grade) isn’t on the list anymore. Violet says she missed the deadline, but really, she changed her mind after the accident.
The book doesn’t yet reveal who Eleanor is, but the way Violet talks about her suggests that Eleanor isn’t in Violet’s life anymore—perhaps because of the accident. Violet also makes it clear that the accident marked a major shift in her life and caused her priorities to change.
Mrs. Kresney then asks about EleanorandViolet.com, which Eleanor and Violet started after they moved to Indiana. The website got really popular last year, but Violet hasn’t touched it since Eleanor died. The site was “about sisters,” and Violet’s words died when she and Eleanor went through the guardrail. The conversation turns to “the accident,” and Violet tells Mrs. Kresney that she doesn’t feel like she’s being punished for it—but privately, she thinks she’s responsible and should be punished. When Mrs. Kresney asks, Violet confirms that she hasn’t been in a car yet and still isn’t participating in cheerleading or student council. She’s not ready. Mrs. Kresney sighs and says that she’s not pleased with Violet’s progress—Violet needs “to remember that [she’s] a survivor.” At this, Violet walks out of the office.
Here, Violet confirms that Eleanor died in a car accident—and that she was also in the car. This passage also explains why Violet is struggling to move on after Eleanor’s death: she feels responsible for what happened to her sister and like she has to pay for it somehow. Though Mrs. Kresney probably means well when she reminds Violet that she’s a “survivor,” to Violet, this reminder isn’t particularly encouraging. However, Violet seems is keeping her true feelings from Mrs. Kresney, so Mrs. Kresney may see Violet’s progress very differently than Violet herself does.
As Violet walks to class, lots of people tell her she was brave for saving Finch from killing himself. Privately, Violet thinks Finch was the worst person she could’ve saved. People either love him or hate him because he does what he wants and is “weird” and “extreme.” Violet is five minutes late to Russian Literature. The teacher, Mrs. Mahone, assigns a 10-page paper, but Violet doesn’t groan like her classmates—she can get out of it since she has “Extenuating Circumstances.” She ignores Mrs. Mahone and focuses on her headache. It’s probably from wearing Eleanor’s glasses, but Violet hopes that if she wears the glasses, she’ll become like Eleanor and won’t have to miss her anymore. Violet has good days and bad days, and the good days make her feel guilty.
Violet may be receiving so much attention because she’s popular, not necessarily because of what she did. The way Violet describes Finch further reveals how other kids view him: he’s considered unknowable and “weird,” and he isn’t well-liked because of that. As Violet thinks about Eleanor’s glasses, it encapsulates how acutely she’s still feeling her grief. In order to remember Eleanor, she seems to reason, it’s essential to do whatever she can to be like her sister.
The girl behind Violet passes her a note. It’s from Ryan Cross, the best-looking boy in school who was Violet’s boyfriend until last month. The note asks if she really saved Finch, and Violet writes back that she was just there at the right time. When a reply comes back to her, she doesn’t open it. Lots of people, including the old Violet, would love to get a note from Ryan. When the bell rings, Violet stays in her seat. She used to be able to write anything—but since the accident, she can’t bring herself to write. She knows that teachers go easy on her because she’s still grieving. Sure enough, when Mrs. Mahone notices Violet, she tells her to just write “a page or a paragraph.” Satisfied, Violet leaves the classroom; Ryan has been waiting for her in the hallway. Over Ryan’s shoulder, she sees Finch strut past and nod.
The way Violet talks about “saving” Finch suggests that she’s ashamed to have been up on the belltower for the exact same reasons that Finch was there. Her suicidal thoughts aren’t something she’s comfortable talking about—and in order to preserve her reputation, she doesn’t feel like she can be open about her problems. Again, not being able to write after the accident shows that Violet is still struggling to process her grief, and it’s affecting her everyday life.